Friday, September 11, 2015

Indie Authors Should be Using Twitch


When you are writing a book, sometimes its best to read passages aloud in order to gauge if its flows correctly. In other cases you may want to create an audiobook edition of your upcoming title. No matter where you are in the writing pipeline indie authors should be using Twitch.

You may have heard of Twitch in the news, when it was purchased by Amazon last year. In essence, it got its start by being one of the best platforms for E-Sports and other gaming-related programs. Content on the site can either be viewed live, or viewed on an on-demand basis. In the last six months the platform has expanded to include categories for audio and creative pursuits.

Twitch is in the top 10 of most popular websites in the United States with 43 million people per month watching live video streams. This is the perfect avenue for authors to build a non-conventional base of users and correspond with them directly in real time. Once you have amassed over a few thousand followers Twitch will cut you in for a revenue share program, in addition to being able to accept donations immediately.

I think right now Twitch is an untapped market for authors who want to read passages of their book and cultivate a following. It will give them practice on reading in a public forum and aid them in eventually self-narrating their own audiobook.

In order to get started on Twitch you want to download a free program called Open Broadcast Software. It is the most intuitive to use and works on MAC, PC and Linux. It took me a few days to setup all my scenes properly, because I have more of an advanced setup, but you can get started the day you install it, as long as you have a webcam. You also need to create a Twitch account and setup your channel details. If you have a Facebook Author Page or Blog, this shouldn’t be difficult. When you click on your Twitch Dashboard under Playing you want to add either “creative” or “music” so people on Twitch or using one of their apps can easily find your broadcast. Finally, in a separate window make sure your channel is up, so you can talk directly to fans.

Obviously with Twitch, it isn’t as easy to use as Twitter or Facebook, but millions of authors have saturated those platforms. It may not be the most simple thing in the world, but I would always recommend getting in on the ground floor of a new category to self-promote your work and get immediate feedback from your fans.

Authors Guild Study Shows Most Live Under the Poverty Line


The Authors Guild is poised to release their first author earnings study since 2009. What they found should be a cause for concern in regards to how much the average writer is generating solely from their writing. It is dramatically apparent that most of them live below the Federal Poverty line, which is less than $11,670 per year.

The survey, was conducted earlier in the year and is based on responses from 1,674 Guild members, 1,406 of whom identified either as a full-time author, or a part-time one. 4% of the writers taking part in the survey were indie authors and 33% reported having self-published at least one book.

Mary Rasenberger, executive director at the Guild, acknowledged that the findings paint a grim picture. "When it comes to income there is no good news to report," she said. Citing a swirl of factors, from online piracy to publisher consolidation to the rise of Amazon (and the shuttering of brick and mortar bookstores), Rasenberger said the takeaway from the survey is that authors should be, receiving higher royalties from publishers. "Authors need to be cut in more equitably on the profits their publishers see, or we'll stop seeing the quality of work the industry was built on."

Pottermore Abandons Gaming with New Website Relaunch


Pottermore originally launched in April 2012 and the website was initially developed to sell all seven Harry Potter titles in the digital format. One of the big draws was a gaming system which appealed to a younger demographic and allowed you to join in on the early adventures of Harry Potter. You could join a house and play mini-games, something a small but loyal audience continues to enjoy.  Susan Jurevics the current Pottermore CEO has announced that in the coming weeks the service will undergo a total redesign and drop all gaming elements from the site.

In an interview with the Bookseller, CEO  Susan Jurevics said the changes had been driven by identifying the core users of the site, how technology had developed since its original launch and the need to reflect that the Harry Potter universe is no longer confined to the original seven books. A stage play is currently under development, and the first of three new films, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", is to be released next year. Starting this October fully illustrated edition of the Harry Potter series, with drawings by Jim Kay will be also sold on the site.

Over the years J.K. Rowling has also used Pottermore as a vehicle to steadily reveal secrets of the wizarding world, delving into the histories of beloved (and some not-so-beloved) characters, and discussing her thoughts on the books and characters.  One of her biggest bombshells was that she really wanted to have Harry and Hermione get together.  Her musings and short fiction will also be a central theme to the websites relaunch.

The main reason why Pottermore is being revised is because when it originally launched the iPad was’t invented yet and people did not sleep with their smartphones. The current iteration of Pottermore is a desktop and laptop experience and this is something the company wants to change. They need the service to be totally mobile friendly and have all of their content show up in the search engine, something that it is unable to do now due to the dynamic nature of the gaming system.

I think Pottermores lasting legacy is how it shook up the publishing world. When you buy the e-book edition from any of the worlds top digital bookstores, such as Amazon or Kobo you are actually redirected to the Pottermore website and those sites earn commissions.  This is something that had not been done before and hasn’t been duplicated since.

Kristin’s 10 Deserted Island Books

Ed. Note: This is the 7th in our series of books we'd take with us on a deserted island if we could only pick ten. Today's list comes from Kirstin Milks, a librarian and Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yeah I admit it, I'm a basic white girl. Whatever #sorrynotsorry. I love this story and Elizabeth Bennet is a female protagonist who I highly revere. Plus, who doesn't have a crush on the brooding, well-mannered, if not prejudice, Mr. Darcy?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – I need some magic on this island and who better than The Boy Who Lived. I love Azkaban! The introduction of Sirius Black and a further explanation of HP's family history is one of my favorite parts of the series. The only problem with this book is it's not 700 pages.

A Room of One's Own – Virginia Woolf's essays on writing, independence, and finding a small amount of success as a female is a piece of literature I can read and reread to find inspiration and wisdom.

Collected Poems 1901-1962 by TS Eliot – Eliot's poetry is melancholy and hauntingly beautiful. I could reread the Four Quartets over and over again and feel like I'm reading a new piece each time. I will never get bored of his poetry and am astounded by his mastery. A must for a long stay in an isolated location.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh – I will need to laugh if I'm expected to remain sane on this island and I can always find good giggles in Brosh's autobiographical piece with amazingly terrible drawings she made on her computer.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin – Everyone hated me in high school English while I fiercely defended Edna, the protagonist of this masterful piece of feminist literature. I loved the deeper story about a woman struggling for independence and self-actualization. It spoke to me in a way no book had until that point in time and I love it to this day. What now AP English class! I'm stuck on a deserted island and am all independent-like!

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg – I haven't read it yet and it's a stout 900+ page book that is supposed to be the next great American novel. I think I will finally have time to read it while marooned.

The Ultimate Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by David Borgenicht & Joshua Piven & Ben Winters – A survival guide…..yeah no duh I want this while trapped on a deserted island! Plus the 'Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks' series are pretty funny and will also provide entertainment.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Yes the whole series. An epic fantasy seems like the perfect companion to the boredom and potentially hopelessness of lonely island dwelling. Frodo and the gang will give me hope for a better world and Golem will remind me to stay away from deep dark island caves *shudder*.

The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction – Yes I am cheating here, but no one said I couldn't choose an anthology! Now I get a little love from a whole lot of spectacular authors. What can I say, this girl knows how to get the most bang for her buck.


Kristin Milks is a librarian and a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive

Raspberry Pi in Estonia project launch

If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen some pictures of me standing next to important looking people in suits, handing out Raspberry Pi kits on Tuesday. This was the launch event for an educational project we’ve been working on with the British Embassy in Tallinn over the last few months.


Back in February of this year, just after the Raspberry Pi 2 launch, we were invited to mentor at the Garage48 Hardware & Arts Hackathon at the University of Tartu in Estonia. Rachel and I attended, and were amazed by the projects the teams were coming up with – some of which used Raspberry Pi. We were there to offer technical advice as well as help prepare teams for their pitch presentations. The event was a serious competition with teams thinking about creating businesses off the back of the projects, rather than throwaway apps you might expect from regular hackathons.

Somewhat casually, it was announced that the Prime Minister would be attending the presentations and awards ceremony. At age 35, Taavi Rõivas is the youngest government leader in the European Union. It wasn’t just a fleeting visit – he stuck around all day and took notes throughout the presentations. We were introduced to him and he knew of Raspberry Pi (he has one but hasn’t got around to using it yet). He said that he’d visited the Pi factory in Pencoed and I took the opportunity to have my photo taken with him.

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The winning team was from the Estonian Army, who used a Pi to provide feedback during target practice. Read about this project and the runners up at

After the hackathon we had meetings with some Education organisations and the British Embassy and we ended up kicking off a project to get Raspberry Pis into schools across Estonia. We offered to fund half of the kits, and Transferwise kindly provided match funding to cover the rest.

We were also involved in HITSA‘s Informatics Teachers Summer School which took place in August – as well as providing match funding for 60 Pi 2s and the excellent CamJam Sensor Kits, I gave a webinar to introduce the Pi and the Foundation’s mission to the teachers. We also granted two Estonian teachers a place on Picademy North in May.

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We were then invited to an event marking the opening of the hubs, which took place earlier this week, and the Embassy had arranged for the British Ambassador and the Prime Minister to attend.

The day started with me giving seminars to two groups of children from the school (a very large school combining what we’d call Primary and Secondary); then after lunch we set up the room which soon filled with more children, teachers and the press. Transferwise handed out t-shirts they had made for the occasion and the room was coated in Raspberry Pi flyers and balloons. There was even Raspberry Pie on offer!

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The Prime Minister arrived and the event began with the Ambassador Chris giving a speech saying how proud he was to be involved in the project; followed by the Prime Minister saying a few words, thanking the Foundation and Transferwise. Then I spoke of the Foundation’s original goal to create a computer the price of a textbook to make it accessible to all, and of the great opportunities created for children all over Estonia. The three of us then joined up with Transferwise to hand out the kits to a representative of each of the 20 schools.

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The Picademy trained teachers also presented. Birgy Lorenz showed what the Raspberry Pi could do, including a demo of Sonic Pi from the kids accompanied by Birgy on a real piano; and Maria Malozjomov explained the possibilities of using the Raspberry Pi with young children, and showed a video of her children unboxing and setting up:

There was then some time for demonstrations of the Raspberry Pis we’d set up – ones for Scratch, Minecraft, Sonic Pi, Python & Picamera and one with the Sense HAT. The Prime Minister managed to get himself a seat at the Minecraft table and was seen playing with it between speeches:


Even Prime Ministers like to play Minecraft: Pi Edition

I also happened to have an Astro Pi Flight kit running a copy of the actual flight SD card with the Astro Pi competition code with me:


The Astro Pi flight kit running the MCP

The launch event ended with a mega Picamera selfie! I set up a push button stop motion loop in Python and triggered it to take a few photos with the crowd behind me:


The mega selfie moment captured

The British Ambassador Chris Holtby said:

Today has been a very exciting day, and an important day for technology in Estonian schools.  We have now equipped 20 schools and other centres all across Estonia with Raspberry Pi kits, and further schools and centres will become Raspberry Pi hubs in the next phases. Many young (and not so young) people in Estonia want to learn to program, but often the equipment and know-how is not available. This programme is aimed to help fix those gaps.

Today's launch of the RaspberryPiEstonia programme was only possible through the hard work and commitment of great partners in the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Transferwise and Vaata Maailma Sihtasutus, and the dedication and inspiration of Information Technology teachers and professionals across Estonia. I am grateful to them all, and proud to have been able to work with them.

I am also very honoured that Prime Minister Taavi Roivas was able to join us today, and to be the one handing over the equipment.  It is important to have the support of the Government in giving this project maximum impact and making it sustainable.

Chris Holtby

After the event I gave a seminar to the Tallinn Informatics Teachers Group to follow on from the webinar at the Summer School.

See this storify of all the day's tweets; check out the British Embassy’s photo album on Facebook; and you can watch the full video of the event on YouTube.

A great big thanks to the Krislin and the team at the British Embassy in Tallinn, the Ambassador Chris Holtby, lead teachers Birgy Lorenz and Maria Malozjomov, Mari-Liis at HITSA, all the team at Transferwise, and of course Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

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